On Thursday, October 7, 2010, Tostan Executive Director Molly Melching presented the Jokko Initiative at the launch of the GSMA Development Fund’s mWomen program, hosted by the US Secretary of State’s Office of Global Women’s Issues and the GSMA.
The day-long conference, titled “Empowering Women through Mobile Technology,” brought together government, business, and NGO leaders to discuss the obstacles barring women from access to mobile technology and the possibilities for more equal and prosperous communities if this global gender gap were bridged.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recognized Tostan and Molly Melching during her opening remarks, praising the Jokko Initiative and its innovative strategy for using mobile phones to reinforce literacy, numeracy, and connections in African communities. She said, “I also want to recognize Molly Melching, the executive director of Tostan in Senegal. I’ve worked with Molly also for many years as well as with Tostan. And she’ll be on a panel later that will talk in detail about how learning the way to operate a cell phone has become a very important way of teaching illiterate women their numbers and letters. And so it is not only a device, it is a door to greater education and information.”
The mWomen program is an initiative created by the GSMA following the publication of a study conducted in conjunction with the Cherie Blair Foundation. The report found that 93% of women who have mobile phones feel safer, 85% feel more independent, and 41% report increased income and economic opportunities.
According to the report, 300 million women worldwide lack access to mobile phones. The mWomen program seeks to empower women with greater security, independence, economic opportunities, and access to the outside world through mobile technology. Encouraging collaboration between the public and private sectors, the program aims to halve the gender gap within three years by making mobile phone ownership a possibility for 150 million women.
The mWomen program—for which 17 mobile companies worldwide have pledged their support—will consist of three interdependent programs. The Technical Assistance component focuses on breaking down the barriers preventing women’s access to mobile phones through marketing strategies aimed at attracting female, first-time mobile phone owners. The second component will deliver practical information via mobile phones to women concerning health, entrepreneurship, finance, and education in an effort to provide women with economic opportunities and information to improve the quality of life for them and their families. The third component is the Challenge Fund, which will provide matching grants for mobile operators who work to empower women in developing countries through mobile ownership.
To watch the video of the opening remarks by Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues, Melanne Verveer, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Cherie Blair, and Rob Conway of the GSMA, please click here .